Letter to Metro Vancouver RE: Air Quality Impact of New and Expanded Coal Shipment Activity in Metro Vancouver

June 12, 2013
Cheryl Muir

The Business Council of British Columbia addressed written correspondence a proposed recommendations on the potential air quality impacts of new and expanded coal shipment activity in Metro Vancouver being considered by the Board of Metro Vancouver on June 14th, 2013.

In keeping with our history of being a strong advocate for a Pacific Gateway strategy that enables the development of Canadian and North American trade with commercial partners in Asia, the Business Council feels an obligation to our members and to the province to speak to certain aspects of the motion which we find problematic.

In our comments to the board, we note the following with respect to the economic impact of both Port Metro Vancouver and the coal industry in British Columbia:

  • Port Metro Vancouver recent economic impact found that 47,700 jobs in BC are directly related to the Port's activities and that number increases to 106,000 when considering indirect employment. Most of these jobs are in the lower mainland.
  • Port Metro Vancouver is Canada's largest port and a vital national trade gateway that facilities commerce and enables global market access for industries from across Western Canada.
  • Annual coal production in BC exceeds 26 million tonnes, is primarily metallurgical coal and is BC's largest single export product at $5.7 billion (2012) and 18% of all exports.

With respect to the motion being considered on June 14th by Metro Vancouver Board of Directors, the Business Council the following is a summary of the comments contained in the full letter:

  • While the BCBC is broadly supportive of science-based initiatives to regulate air quality and manage the impact of development, we believe it is the wrong approach to try to simply try to stop expansion projects by limiting coal shipments to only the Roberts Bank terminal.
  • The motion's recommendations are at odds with established development application processes and the land use objectives outlined int he new Regional Growth Strategy: Metro Vancouver 2040 - Shaping our Future.
  • Air quality in the Lower Mainland has been improving for many years according to data from Metro Vancouver.
  • BCBC suggests that the Board adopt a more constructive approach and work with the coal sector and the Port to examine potential issues around coal dust and how to best mitigate any impacts.
  • BCBC notes that the coal industry continues proactively to address issues arising from the movement of coal, including dust suppression systems at terminal sites and along transportation routes; further Port Metro Vancouver has been the recipient of multiple awards for improvements in air quality over the years despite major increases in port shipping volumes.

The Business Council contends that stopping economic development and preventing Western Canadian resource industries from exporting what they produce is a fundamentally misguided approach that threatens the very foundations of our economy.

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